The Gargia Conference on Regional Development was established in 2004 in the small rural community with the same name 40 km outside of Alta as a meeting-place and forum for  faculty members and students from Finnmark University College (FiUC) and local and regional development agents, both from public and private sector, involved in a new R&D-project for local and regional development workshops and partnerships in Finnmark, the northernmost county in Norway. After we started the UArctic Thematic Network on Local and Regional Development in 2007 the Gargia Conference became international as well. It was opened up for academics and practitioners engaged in local community and economic development from the whole circumpolar region.

Every year we are dealing with a different theme or issue inside the thematic framework of regional development. Last year it was ‘reconstructing rural places in a globalized world. The advantage of proximity to urban centres’ and next year it will be ‘tourism and place development – in a regional perspective’. At Gargia 2010 the main focus was on control of natural resources vital for the development of native and non-native communities of the North. This issue was central in the presentation of the key note speaker, Steinar Pedersen, rector of the Sami University College in Kautokeino. After the conference the representatives of indigenous peoples from Canada, Russia and the Nordic countries were invited to the Norwegian Sami Parliament in Karasjok and to the multiethnic municipality of Tana, in Eastern Finnmark. Since three different reindeer herding peoples from Russia, the evenks, yukaghirs and izhma-komis, were represented in the excursion group we organized visits to local reindeer herding camps and businesses, in addition to visits to coastal sami communities.

Elin Sabbasen, the director of Gaisa Business Park, the only sami business park in the world, and co-host for the excursion together with the municipality of Tana, gave an informal but very interesting talk about the background and different activities of the regional development organisation, including her vast experience with micro credit and the establishment of new small businesses in Northern Norway. The representatives of the izhma-komi people were so impressed that they invited Elin to take part in the ‘startup’ conference for a development partnership for the Izhma region in Ukhta, in the Komi Republic, beginning of February 2011.

Steinar og Slava, nett

The educational, research and development work network partners have been involved with in Indigenous communities in the Nordic countries, northern Canada and Russia will be summed up at a joint thematic network meeting and workshop at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George, BC, Canada in the end of November (22-26/11). With the constructive title ‘Understanding indigenous economic development in northern, rural and remote settings - framework for change’ the Community Development Institute at UNBC and Aboriginal Business Development Corporation in Prince George have summoned local and regional development agents as well as Canadian and international members of the UArctic thematic networks on northern governance, tourism and local and regional development to join forces and point out new directions for future educational, research and development work in the thematic field of regional development.